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Trump Plans to Halt Obama’s Deferred Action and Clean Power Programs

by Countable | Updated on 7.13.18

On the campaign trail, President Elect Donald Trump promised to undo what he called President Obama’s "unconstitutional executive actions. After he takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017, he’ll have an opportunity to do just that.

Last week, we broke down some of Obama’s major executive orders that will be in jeopardy under the Trump administration, but presidents can also take other steps to implement their agenda that could be easily undone by the next POTUS. The president can issue presidential memoranda, which are a lot like executive orders in that they’re binding, but they aren’t numbered (a distinction that confuses even the White House Press Secretary). They can also have federal agencies advance regulatory changes they prefer.

Now, we’ll take a look at two central pillars of Obama’s agenda that came into being through these other forms of executive action — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy and the Clean Power Plan which looks to cut greenhouse gas emissions — and what their fate may be after Trump is sworn in.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

In June 2012, Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allowed the U.S. government to defer deportations for people who came to the U.S. illegally before they turned 16 for a two-year, renewable period without providing them with legal status. It’s a use of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s "prosecutorial discretion," which is just a fancy term saying the agency can choose how they deal with each case.

Since the program’s creation in 2012, and its subsequent 2014 expansion to include people who were in the U.S. prior to 2010, more than 728,000 people have been approved for deferred action and allowed to remain in the U.S. Participants are able to apply for driver’s licenses, get in-state tuition at public universities, get a social security card and work legally. But DACA has been controversial since it began. Congress has tried on multiple occasions to halt the program and its offshoot, the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability or DAPA program, which was ultimately blocked by a ruling of the Supreme Court.

Should Trump decide to eliminate DACA, despite appeals by Obama and others to keep it intact, it would revoke the ability of people who had been protected by the program to remain in the country. While it’s not clear whether they would face immediate deportation in the event of a repeal — Trump has said he would deport the estimated 3 million unauthorized immigrants with criminal records first — they would likely lose the privileges that had been extended through program while the administration decides how to handle deportation.

Clean Power Plan

First proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2014, the Clean Power Plan became Obama’s signature policy in his administration’s fight against climate change by requiring the power sector to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent before 2030.

A final version of the plan completed the EPA’s rulemaking process in August 2015, and requires states to create plans for reducing carbon emissions from power plants to meet that goal. If a state chooses not to comply — and several have fought against it — the EPA would impose top-down standards on them that won’t be tailored to fit the state’s needs, which could prove more expensive for state-level power companies and consumers.

The Clean Power Plan has proven controversial, as it punishes energy production from coal power plants in favor of energy from renewables and cleaner sources like natural gas. Detractors say that this will ultimately raise the cost of electricity, especially for consumers in states that currently rely on coal, which tied with natural gas as the leading source of electricity generation nationwide in 2015 at 33 percent each. As a result, Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation to give states more leeway in complying with the Clean Power Plan. The House passed that bill, but it hasn’t been considered by the Senate.

The legal basis for the Clean Power Plan has also been called into question, with the U.S. Supreme Court putting its implementation on hold while a case challenging the EPA’s authority winds its way through the courts. The central debate in the case is whether the EPA properly used the Clean Air Act as justification for advancing the Clean Power Plan without legislative action by Congress or states.

While that case is likely destined for a hearing before the Supreme Court after the D.C. appeals court issues its ruling, the incoming Trump administration could unravel the Clean Power Plan before SCOTUS has a chance to weigh in. All that President Trump would have to do to change course is to take an executive action that calls for the adoption a new energy policy and order the EPA to stop all enforcement or implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

Could these policies somehow survive?

Given the degree of opposition to these policies Trump voiced on the campaign trail, it’s highly unlikely that either DACA or the Clean Power Plan will be allowed to proceed unchanged once he becomes president. But it’s possible that members of Congress who want to preserve these elements of Obama’s legacy could advance legislation to keep parts of these policies in effect.

Regardless of where you stand on these policies, you can use the take action button to let your reps know how you think the Trump administration and the new Congress should approach dealing with DACA and the Clean Power Plan.

— Eric Revell
Photo by Edbrown05 / Creative Commons)

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(101)
  • Olivia
    11/21/2016
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    It's incredibly important to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment because environmental issues affect everyone, regardless of race, gender, class, or political party. And once the environment reaches a tipping point, it's going to be hard to fix. We need to make changes while there's still time.

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  • Randall
    11/22/2016
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    Big mistake. Fossil fuels are bad for the environment and the health of our home. Republican ignorance about Climate Change is no excuse. Wake up and smell the pollution!

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  • Bibi2418
    11/21/2016
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    What is wrong with taking care of the environment? The President elect lives here also. Bad for "business"?

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  • Dane
    11/21/2016
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    If this were to happen we'd be taking progress and going backwards... tearing at our nation because the parties are so polarized. I'd like to see this nation striving forward and building up instead of tearing down.

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  • Kirsten
    11/21/2016
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    Its almost cute to think we haven't yet reached a "tipping point." We (humans/industrialized nations) have wreaked environmental havoc and the polar ice caps melt is irreversible. Tipping point has been well surpassed. The sickest part is, the technology for clean energy has long since been available, it just isn't immediately profitable for those in the coal and petroleum businesses. Shortsighted, selfish and thoughtless industries, and all the blue collar workers who's eyes are blinded to the fact that they could be doing good for their families and their world if they would help put pressure on to embrace alternatives.

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  • RevolutionNow
    11/22/2016
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    Twenty years ago the science was somewhat questionable, but now it's irrefutable. There will always be people who are willing to slant their professional opinions based on who is paying them and how much; but the scientific community as a whole cannot be disregarded when it comes to consensus opinions regarding climate change and the state of the earth that sustains us. Financial gain is the only obvious motivation to refute the science and ignore the progressive decline of the earth and that is unacceptable! The EPA, like all government agencies, needs to be overhauled, but repeal of this legislation CANNOT happen!!

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  • dhbrotman
    11/22/2016
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    SherryTX: where did you inhale this blather about scientists debunking climate change? Educate yourself by reading some actual scientific journals and not Koch propaganda. There are virtually NO scientists who disagree with the consensus on climate change, certainly none that are not in the pocket of the fossil fuel lobby. If you know of any, name them. Climate change, and other sources of environmental destruction, are a clear and present danger and either you know - and are paid to mislead - or you are criminally ignorant. Look inward and to your current or future grandchildren and ask whether you are really prepared to take responsibility for the turmoil that humanity will face in the coming decades because of the short sighted selfish interests that you parrot.

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  • jcomposition
    11/22/2016
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    For many years Donald Trump has rejected and ignored scientists warnings on climate change. Research his position on the subject, the information is not hard to find. The truth is that current EPA restrictions are already not enough to prevent what will probably be world disaster. We cannot afford four to eight years of moving backwards to appease electricity bills and unemployed energy workers. While that may sound insensitive, I ask anybody who opposes this view to consider that we may have nothing to sacrifice if we do not take dramatic alternative action.

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  • Rhonda
    11/23/2016
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    Why try to reverse climate change awareness and protective measures? Short-term ($) thinking is not the answer - long range plans and protections are imperative.

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  • Avalon
    11/21/2016
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    I'm 99% sure that DACA doesn't allow for drivers licenses or public tuition for college. It is only a work permit, a social security number exclusively for working, and protection from deportation. California has two bills, AB60 and AB540, that allows those without a social security number to get both. Several states block state aid for undocumented students, and others, like Georgia, ban them from enrolling all together. Also -- I think it's important to mention that DACA is self funded entirely, and requires *extensive* documentation from the applicant in order to go through. I can only hope that the incoming administration will see this and not leave these hardworking people twisting in the wind.

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  • CindyLou
    11/22/2016
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    Big mistake. Fossil fuels are bad for the environment and the health of our home, planet earth. Republican's view about Climate Change not occurring, and that we must do everything we can to slow it is ridiculous. It is happening and the scientific community that sees the evidence should be heard! OPEN YOUR EYES!!! WAKE UP!!!!

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  • Loren
    11/22/2016
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    Climate change is arguably the most important issue of our time. Moreover, since carbon emissions is a negative externality, where everyone pays the price for one actor's harmful actions, it means that the government needs to take action in order to leverage the ability of the market to curb the increase in carbon emissions. Going forward, we should leverage the techniques that the Republicans have invented to successfully curb CFCs and air pollutants and protect the ozone layer in order to have a bipartisan push to curb carbon emissions and save our planet.

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  • Lois
    01/14/2017
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    Please do not endorse Trump's plan to remove the Clean Air Act. We need to make every effort to use renewable clean energy especially with big business.

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  • Ed
    11/23/2016
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    Every illegal anti constitutional executive action taken by this terrorist in he WH needs to be repealed. That's what the vote was about.

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  • Dustin
    11/23/2016
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    He can't do it fast enough

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  • dianne
    01/14/2017
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    You MUST recognize that your children's and grandchildren's future is on your shoulders. What fuel industries care about now and pay for now does not include those future citizens' well-being. It's your JOB to act on their behalf! Science is not a partisan issue. Please take a stand on behalf of our future.

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  • Patrick mike
    11/22/2016
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    I hope he undoes every unconstitutional overreach of His Royal Highness King Barry [the First of His Name, Race-Baiter in Chief, He Who Leads from Behind, Lord of the Democrats, Father of Drones, Creator of Laws, Shredder of the Constitution, Chief Cheerleader of the Slayers of Bin Laden, Islamist-in-Chief and Defender of The Muslim Brotherhood, Abandoner of the Israelites and the Ambassador, Liberator of the Taliban, Advocate of the Atomic Ayatollahs, Obsessor over Planetary Temperature, Fast Tracker of Refugees, Perfecter of the Golf Game, Destroyer of American Exceptionalism and the American Economy].

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  • Rbrown
    01/16/2017
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    No we need to be protected from corporate greed and over reach further, not less, by keeping and strengthening pollution laws and thereby protecting our fragile environment.

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  • Markie
    01/13/2017
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    Renewables are the future invest in them.

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  • Serena
    11/24/2016
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    The fact of the matter is that there isn't time to debate about the effect of fossil fuels on our environment. If it does cause climate change (which almost all scientific evidence supports), then four years of denying this fact and increasing the use of fossil fuels and coal will push our planet past a point of no return that will sentence future generations to irreparable damage.

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